Miscarriage Q&A

1 month since losing you.
1 month of pure terror.
1 month of staring depression in the face and choosing to survive.
1 month of waking up and remembering you’re gone.
1 month I wish I could forget.
1 month without you.

Today marks 1 month since we lost our baby, Mars. In that month, we’ve experienced every single emotion on the spectrum, and have had to find strength in a place where strength is almost impossible to find. I’m not going to lie and say it’s gotten easier- it hasn’t. But, through the suffering I have found ways to let the light in, and have made a conscious decision to live my best life in honor of Mars.

That doesn’t mean I don’t cry into my pillow, in the shower, whenever I see a pregnant person or whenever I remember how it felt to carry our baby. It just means the suffering doesn’t consume me (most days).

To celebrate surviving a month without Mars, and to raise awareness on what actually happens during/after miscarriage, I’m doing a Q&A. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions, I’ll answer them the best I possibly can ūüôā

What do you do to keep yourself busy/cope with the loss of Mars?

This is such a great question. Especially during Covid/lockdowns, distractions have been hard to find. I was having a conversation with my mom the other day and we were saying how in normal days, if someone went through a miscarriage, they may enjoy going to a spa, getting their hair done, and seeing friends in person. But, when you consider that we can’t do any of those things right now, I’ve had to get crafty in how I keep myself busy.

Here are the things I’ve done to keep busy, and cope with the loss.

Read. A lovely friend of mine dropped off a stack of books I’ve been working my way through. I used to primarily read non-fiction, but now I’m enjoying the escape of fiction, how you can transport into another life by simply turning a page. I’ve read a few books I really enjoyed that I’ll link at the end of the blog post. I’ve also set a goal to read 12 books in 2021.
Walk. Someone a lot of people don’t know about miscarriage is that depending on whether you have surgery or not, the doctors suggest 4-6 weeks of “pelvic rest” which is essentially no exercise that engages the pelvis/core. So, all I’ve been able to do is walk, and it’s been a lifeline.
Write. The thing I love about writing, is no one can take it away from me. Not a pandemic, or a lockdown or a miscarriage. I’ve been blogging and writing in my journal to process what’s happened. I plan to continue using Mars as a motivation to engage in creativity.
Connect. I can’t even put into words how important connection has been for me during this time. I’ve connected with folks over Instagram and Facebook who have been through similar experiences or who simply want to extend a hand to help me through this. Now, the thing about connection, is you have to ask for it. You can’t expect people to know you want it. I’ve been open with our loss on Instagram and Facebook which has opened the door for folks to connect with me. This has been so, so valuable. Thank you to anyone who has reached out to me, had 1 Facebook am conversations, or has offered support in any way.

What is the best advice you can give someone suffering through a miscarriage?

Oh gosh, where to begin… I think the best advice I could give to someone suffering through a miscarriage is to listen to their body, connect with their body, and let yourself feel what you feel. If you need to cry into your pillow for 2 hours straight- do it. If you need to scream in an empty field until your throat burns- do it. If you need to isolate for a week straight and not talk to anyone- do it. You know what you need, deep down, and no one can tell you how you cope with your loss isn’t valid. Only you know what feels right.

Have you had any unexpected feelings since losing Mars?

I have. Many, actually. One that stands out is gratitude. I didn’t expect to EVER feel thankful for this experience. In my darkest days I literally wanted to die because our baby did. But, as the days pass, and as I engage in healing and actively seek out support (via therapy, connecting with others and connecting with nature) I have found a way to be thankful for this experience.

Not to say I am thankful Mars died. I’m not, and I will never ever be thankful for that. But, I am thankful for the platform this gave me to advocate for folks who have experienced miscarriage and didn’t have the resources to advocate for themselves. This experience has allowed me to speak out and make noise about something that is usually experienced in silence and solitude.

I am thankful for the strength Mars has given me. But god, do I miss them.

When will you try again (to conceive)? Do you think you’ll ever be ready?

Short answer, I don’t think we’ll ever be ready. But, that doesn’t mean we won’t try again.

Long answer, we don’t know when we’ll try again. The newly imposed Covid lockdown measures prohibit non-essential travel, and our donor lives out of province…. so we kind of have to wait and see when the lockdown lets up.

We’re also being careful not to rush to try again until we both feel we have fully processed the loss and feel emotionally, and physically strong enough to try again. Speaking for myself (not my partner), I can say I don’t feel physically or emotionally ready yet. So, even if there weren’t a lockdown, we’d be waiting. I’m also aware that I don’t think you can ever feel ready after something like this happens… I imagine when we start trying again I’ll be flooded with memories of losing Mars, fear of it happening again, and maybe an ounce of guilt. I feel like trying again means we’re moving on from Mars, but I know it doesn’t. It just means we’re moving on, with Mars in our hearts.

If I had to guess when we’ll try again, I’d say maybe Summer or Fall of this year. But, who knows. Only time will tell.

Can you link products you use to pamper yourself after losing Mars?

Heck yeah I can.

Our pals at Salon Tao gifted us a lovely basket of pamper gifts. My favorite product is the Cherry Almond Conditioner by Aveda.

The books I’ve read that have provided a nice escape are – The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The House in the Sky , and The Midnight Library.

An advocate, Zoe Clark-Coates, who also writes books on baby loss and grief have also been super helpful. Her Instagram posts have also helped me immensely. Her website offers a bio as well as all of her books (which can also be purchased on Amazon, and some are also at Chapters/Indigo).

What are some physical symptoms after miscarriage that you didn’t expect?

So many. I’m not going to go into depth on explaining them, as they are fairly self explanatory. A list of unexpected physical symptoms I’ve experienced after miscarriage are:

  • Acne (face, chest, back)
  • Weight Gain – like my body doesn’t realize the baby’s gone.
  • Insomnia (this isn’t entirely physical, but was caused likely by the hormonal shifts so I think it’s physical personally) – I kid you not, the week after miscarriage I literally slept maybe 2 hours per night and experienced a sleep-deprivation induced psychosis. I hallucinated and saw ghosts/people in our house. It was the scariest experience. Luckily, the insomnia only lasted about a week.
  • Pain. Even a month after the D&C surgery, I experience pain in my womb. I’m not sure if it’s psycho-somatic, or if it’s just my uterus continuing to heal. But it’s a painful reminder.
  • Bleeding. For me, this only lasted about a week. But for some folks it can last longer.

Can you elaborate on going through the conceiving and miscarriage process as someone with PCOS?

Ah, so this question could be an entire blog post itself. But, I’ll speak to my experience here, and will likely elaborate further in the future.

I was diagnosed with PCOS in my early teens and have always had irregular periods. I’ve found that in different stages of my life, my PCOS symptoms get better, or worse. Since the Pandemic hit, my symptoms have worsened due to stress. My body actually stopped ovulating on it’s own, so I was prescribed Letrozole, which I used to induce ovulation, and conceive.

I’d say the biggest hurdle for me, was realizing that I wasn’t ovulating. Even if you don’t ovulate, you may have high LH surges (which stimulate ovulation to occur) but despite my high LH levels, ovulation wasn’t happening. It wasn’t until I was monitored by the fertility clinic that we discovered I wasn’t ovulating (this is done through blood tests and ultrasounds).

I guess, my biggest piece of advice if you want to conceive as someone who has PCOS is to educate yourself as much as you can. I found this book helpful (to understand PCOS, not to reverse it). Additionally, I’d say get in touch with a fertility clinic or specialist as soon as you decide you want to start a family, as it can be a lengthy process to figure out a treatment plan that works for your body.

In terms of miscarrying with PCOS, I’m not sure if it’s different from miscarrying without PCOS. But, I do know I likely won’t ovulate/get a period without using progesterone pills and Letrozole. The progesterone pills are taken for 7-10 days and then stopped, which forces your body to have a period. Then, Letrozole is taken on cycle days 3-7 to induce ovulation (which occurs around cycle day 15-17 for me).

In short, PCOS complicates every aspect of conceiving. I wish I could provide more information, but I’m still learning about it too. ‚̧

I hope these questions and answers can help someone else struggling.

So much love,

TJ

5 Things That Helped During Our Miscarriage

It’s been 2 weeks since we lost you. 2 weeks since you’ve been outside of my body and it still feels surreal. They say grief gets easier with time, and I don’t necessarily agree. I think it just gets further away, smaller, harder to see. But when you lose a baby, it’s almost like you don’t want that to happen…like you want them to stay as big as possible, to take up as much room as possible. Because that’s the closest you’ll ever get to having them here.

I’d be lying if I said it’s gotten easier. It hasn’t. Grief has a way of shape shifting as time passes. When we first lost you our grief was a hurricane, now it’s a broken tap dripping constantly. Both demand attention, but only the people living with the dripping tap understand it’s enormity- the attention it demands.

Through my healing, I’ve found a few things that have helped me feel either closer to Mars (our lost baby), or feel closer to myself. I’m going to outline those in hopes that they can help someone else.

  1. Therapy. Seriously- go to therapy if you can. I found a really wonderful therapist in Ottawa who specializes in everything relating to pregnancy, birth trauma, postpartum and loss. I’ve been seeing her once/week since we lost our baby and she’s been a lifeline for me. I usually sob through our sessions, but she ensures the space feels safe enough to do so. She has helped me connect with Mars, and myself and has given me hope to carry on. If anyone is looking for a phenomenal therapist here’s her contact @Empowered Counselling.
  2. Something to honor our baby. I knew I needed something tangible to hold when Mars left us. At first I debated sleeping with the single outfit we purchased when we found out we were pregnant, but that hurt way too much. Later I found this lovely jewelry shop called Rightly Royce (After their little one) run by a couple who lost their sweet boy when he was under 3 years old. They used his legacy to help other grieving parents with their beautiful jewelry. The jewelry is primarily initial or name necklaces, but they’re always coming out with new products as well. Here’s their online shop.
  3. Community Support. We have been so blessed with the outpouring of support from our friends, family and even strangers. Our friend started a Gofundme for us to help with costs so we can try again to start a family when we’re ready and it’s almost hit 4k! We can’t even express our gratitude, just know we’ve shed so many tears from the kindness we’ve been shown.

    Through our mourning, I was also made aware of this amazing mama who suffered loss of her baby girl, Lily, and has spent her time helping other couples who have struggled as well. She delivers grief support boxes to couples grieving their babies. I was so amazed by the initiative and thoughtfulness of the box. It came complete with a personalized card and grief journals for myself and my partner, flower seeds, gardening gloves, a tiny wooden angel, a handmade candle and so much more. If you’d like to learn more about Lily’s Purpose and how you can help check her site here.
  4. Put away triggering items. Something that was hard about losing our baby was the fact that our home was fully prepared to learn how to welcome them into our world. Pregnancy and parenting books overflowed on my nightstand. Prenatal vitamins sat on our counter. The single outfit we bought laid perfectly on the bed in the room that would have been theirs. Ultrasound photos were propped proudly. This was the hardest thing that I did in order to heal- I put all the items away. I gathered the books, the vitamins, the outfit, the ultrasound photo’s in shaking arms. I put them in the room that would have been Mars’. I cried remembering how hopeful I felt when we found out we were expecting. I closed the door to the room not knowing when I’d feel that sense of hope again, if ever.
  5. Create a memory box. A week after placing all the items in the room that would have been Mars’, I retrieved a few of the most important items and took them to my office. I sat with them, held them, smelled them, cried over them. I took the outfit, the ultrasound photo’s and one of the many pregnancy tests and placed them in a suitcase box I purchased just for this. I wanted to have a spot where I could remember Mars. I wanted to have all of our most important memories in a single place so I could open it when I needed to feel closer to them. I strongly encourage anyone who’s experienced loss to consider trying this, too. It feels cathartic and comforting to know our memories are safe in the box and that I can open it whenever I need to.

I hope this post can help someone else navigating their way through the murky waters of grief.

Sending love,

TJ

What Happened When I Stopped Drinking Every Night?

For those of you who are new here- I struggle with anxiety and depression (although it’s way better than it used to be/ I manage it better now). But, In the past year I’ve leaned on alcohol quite a bit to numb anxious feelings and quiet my busy mind.

What started as a glass of wine each nigh with dinner quickly turned into 2, and then it turned into going straight for the wine when I got home from work, and then to drinking from 5pm to 9pm without even thinking “Is this good for my body and mind?” or “Am I being mindful of what I’m doing right now?”

Truthfully, I didn’t care. I just wanted to numb the feelings of discomfort. I wanted to disassociate in the funnest way possible (because let’s be real- catching a buzz can be fun.)

2 weeks ago I stopped drinking on weekdays. Here’s what happened:

  • Days 1-3 I felt like total garbage. I was nauseous, anxious, had trouble sleeping, and had extreme racing thoughts. I had a panic attack on day 2, and couldn’t eat anything on day 3. I felt agitated and thought multiple times “Can I really do this?”
  • Day 4- I started to feel better physically, but was still bombarded with racing thoughts and anxiety. I realized I can’t just come home after work without wanting to drink. So I had to change my after-work routine. Instead of driving home and drinking as soon as I got in the door, I went to the gym on the way home from work.
  • Day 5-Now- I know I can do this. I WANT to do this. I want to be the best version of myself. Limiting alcohol and being more mindful of my drinking has allowed me to get back to what I WANT to do vs. what I feel like I NEED to do to escape the anxiety.

Things that have helped me when I feel like drinking are:

  • Going to the gym/exercising– Getting into a new environment is essential. Also- taking care of my body physically helps me not want to put toxins back into it. AKA If I work out- the last thing I want to do after is numb myself by drinking a bunch of wine.
  • Going outside when I feel the urge to drink- Getting into nature is extremely healing. Again- change of scenery.
  • Finding new/ engaging in old hobbies: I’ve been doing a lot of things that I either had no energy to do or couldn’t do because I was buzzed every night. I’ve been reading a lot more, exercising a few times per week and writing a lot more.
  • Following people/accounts that post about sober living: Often they have inspiring stories of others who have conquered their alcohol addictions (mental and/or physical) which I have found really helpful to read.

2 weeks down. Drinking on weekends is really practical for me and I would really love to stick with it. If you’re considering going semi-sober, I’d definitely recommend trying it. Reach out to others AKA me for support if needed.

‚̧

Things to NEVER Say to Someone Going Through Fertility Treatments/ Infertility

This one goes out to all of the people going through fertility treatments/procedures in hopes of conceiving. It also goes out to their support system, wife, husband, partner, best friend, roommate- whoever has truly got their back!

It is also dedicated to people who aren’t so helpful. I in no way think anyone is being malicious with their comments, but are instead ignorant or unaware of the heartache that is associated with needing medical intervention to reproduce.

I’ve spoken to over 10 different women who struggle with fertility and are in the process of taking hormones, undergoing testing and procedures, and trying IUI & IVF. As this post is geared towards my own experience as a lesbian, these comments have been made to heterosexual couples who are having trouble conceiving as well.

Also- I can only speak to my own experiences. I know same-sex male couples or men trying to have a child on their own have an extremely hard time as well as eggs and surrogate are a whole ‘nother ball game. Sending some love to them too!

Here are the top 10 things to never say to someone going through this process.

  • “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.”

    Well then. So if it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to be? Like what the fuck does that even mean?
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  • “Just relax.

    Okay. SO having everyone going through fertility treatments has been to appointments at the clinic for a minimum of 2 months. Appointments are booked based on our cycle days and have no mercy for work meetings, our social lives or our bank accounts.

    We get to “try” to produce in a cold, sterile environment where new nurses prick our arms and insert god knows what into our V and all we can do is lay there and hope this is all worth it.

    We rearrange our lives to go to these appointments that usually involve tough news and tears. We drive home processing what just happened. And we wake up the next day and do it all over again.

    SO- telling us to relax during all of this is insensitive. Believe me, we’re trying. Not to mention the recommendations made to improve our fertility. Whole foods, no alcohol, limit caffeine, lose weight…We’re trying to reinvent ourselves in hopes that our reproductive system may follow. It is anything but relaxing. If you want me to relax, send me to the spa.
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  • “It will happen when you stop planning.”

    Oh shit really? Didn’t know as a lesbian I could get pregnant by accident? If we didn’t plan our appointments based on our cycle days- it wouldn’t happen. Ever. If we didn’t plan our work schedule around our fertility appointments, it also wouldn’t happen. So, telling us to stop planning, is like telling us not to bother. Unless you have some magic we can have?
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  • Just go to a bar and hookup with a random guy. It’s cheaper.”

    Oh it’s cheaper that way? Didn’t know that. Pretty sure I identify as a lesbian because I DO NOT want to have sex with men. Despite the temptation of a baby, that’s gonna be a hard pass.
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  • Who’s gonna be the real mom?”

    Uhhh as opposed to what? The fake mom? We’re both gonna be real moms, thanks.
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  • Do you want one of mine?”

    Again, hard. fucking. pass. I want a baby that is part of me or I would have chosen adopting a child who desperately needs a home.
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  • Maybe it’s not in gods plan.”

    The fuck does god have to do with my reproductive organs?
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  • It’s a privilege that IUI and IVF exist.

    Thank you- we know. We are extremely thankful to even have the option to have biological children. But it doesn’t erase the difficulty and emotional turmoil that comes with this process. So thank you for informing us that we are privileged, but when we’re rearranging our lives to accommodate appointments and taking out bank loans to pay for sperm, we don’t feel privileged. ALSO- a privilege that we’re paying for. Can’t forget that part.
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  • Are you sure you want to put your body through that. It’s a lot of hormones.”

    Trust me. There is no part of me that WANTS to load my body full of hormones. But, if that is the only way then of course I will do it.
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  • “Have you considered adoption?

    Oh wow. So this one is ignorant on so many levels. Adoption, in most cases, is not easier, faster or less expensive than conceiving via IUI or IVF. Adoption, while it is amazing & important, may not be how we envisioned our lives. So asking us if we’ve considered adoption is insensitive to the fact that we may be mourning the idea of what we pictured our family/life to look like.

    And, you can bet your ass we’ve considered every.single.option. including adoption
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In conclusion, I don’t think anyone says any of these things maliciously, they usually just don’t understand the heartache and struggle that comes with conceiving in a clinic vs. in your own space on your own terms.

My Favourite Skincare Products

I’m not huge on makeup, it’s definitely not something I’ll splurge on a regular basis.

BUT- I love skin care products. Skin is so delicate and truly mirrors how you treat it. Of course, what we put into our body is SO important when it comes to how our skin looks and feels, but the products we use are also incredibly vital.

Here are my all-time favorite products and how I use them. Notice some are definitely a splurge, while some are extremely cost-effective. If I’ve splurged on a product it’s because it’s 100% worth it.

Cleanser 1: I use two different cleansers depending on how my skin is feeling. When my skin is feeling dry or if I’m wearing a lot of makeup that day, I use the Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleaning Oil from Khiels.  I buy the 42 ML bottle and it lasts forever. This cleanser is an essential oil cleanser so I just use 1 or 2 pumps and add water to create a nice lather. It is by far the best at taking makeup off & doesn’t irritate my eyes either. Also, it’s sulfate-free!

Cleanser¬†2:¬†Good ol’ Spectro Gel. I buy it in bulk from Costco but you can buy it almost anywhere. I use this pretty regularly and find it really gentle on my skin. I love that it’s fragrance-free.

Makeup Remover Wipes:¬†I’m notorious for leaving my makeup on overnight. It’s a habit I’m really working to break. I find having makeup removing wipes handy helps because they’re just so easy and fast. I’m not picky about what kind I use but my current favorite is the Biore Makeup Removing Towelettes. Super affordable ($4.00 for a 30 pack!) and effective & I really like the way they smell.

Exfoliant: I use the Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant by Aveda. I love that it doesn’t have those tiny beads that are terrible for the environment (and our skin). It’s a gentle liquid that I apply with a cloth after washing my face. It smells really fresh and you don’t need much so it lasts a long time.

Facial Moisturizer 1: I use a few honestly but my favorite is The Ultra Facial Cream by Khiels. I find it really gentle on my skin but also combats winter dryness! It doesn’t create a greasy film on my skin either, super light-weight. Again, a bit pricey but you don’t need much so it lasts. 

Night¬†Cream: I use Burt’s Bees Skin Nourishment Night Cream. I like it because again, it’s light-weight and I wake up with my skin feeling really soft and supple. This is the first night cream I’ve used that hasn’t caused breakouts.

Mask: I like trying different masks and have a few different favorites. I really love the Tumeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Mask by Khiels but I find I can only leave it on for 4-5 minutes or so before it starts to irritate my skin. But, I do find my skin does look very bright and radiant afterward.

I also like the Cup O’Coffee Mask by Lush. The smell is amazing (for anyone who likes the smell of coffee.) It definitely helps me wake up in the morning. I also love the coffee grounds that are in the mask that acts as a natural exfoliant. Wallet-friendly too.

Eye¬†Cream: Sad to say I’m getting to the age where I’ll start noticing my skin doesn’t look as young as it used to. I’m already noticing fine lines around my eyes. I don’t hate them, but I want to keep them faint for as long as possible. I really love the Smoothing Eye Concentrate by Juice Beauty.
I bought it over a year ago and it’s still got some left. Seems pricey when you buy it but it lasts so long. I also find it’s really effective at reducing the appearance of dark circles which I am prone to.

Serum: Obsessed with The Midnight Recovery Concentrate by Khiels.
Not only does it work to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, it literally makes my skin glow. My favorite thing about this product though is the smell! It’s so earthy and comforting. It puts me right to sleep.

Peel:¬†I’m hooked on The Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel. These are the most expensive product I own but I swear by them. I don’t use them daily as instructed as I find it’s too harsh on my fair/delicate skin. I use them twice per month usually which makes them more affordable as well. These peels are really easy to use- just two towelettes that you use one after another. They make my skin feel NEW! I can literally see the brightness after using them. They are also Vegan and Cruelty-Free. ūüôā

Body¬†Moisturizer: For years I have used Aveeno Body Lotion simply because I can buy it in bulk from Costco and it’s unscented which I look for in a body lotion. I find it’s good for the summer because it’s light-weight but for the winter I would recommend something a little more moisturizing.

So now that I’ve listed my favorite products. Here’s when/how I use them:

Cleanser: Morning in the shower
Makeup-Removing Towelettes: At night before bed.
Exfoliant: Daily/every other day depending on my skin.
Moisturizer: After cleansing in the morning.
Night Cream: After using the makeup-removing towelettes before bed.
Eye Cream: About 3 times per week or as I remember. Any time.
Mask: Once or twice per week, usually in the shower so the steam helps my pores open.
Serum: I’ll swap this out for the night cream if I find my skin is very dry. I use it about twice a week. (Thought I smell it before bed regularly lol!)
Peel: Once or twice per month, usually on a day where I’m not wearing any makeup.
Body Moisturizer: Daily/as needed.

I know Winter is almost over (I hope) but if you have a body moisturizer that you LOVE please leave it in the comments!

Coping With Anxiety When Trying to Sleep

It’s no secret many of us lose sleep due to stress & anxiety. When our parents checked for monsters under our beds, I wonder if they were thinking to themselves “silly kid, they’re inside your head.”

I’ve overcome night time anxiety and nocturnal panic attacks.¬†¬†I started having nocturnal panic attacks after I graduated college- likely due to the stressors of adjusting to adulthood and living on my own for the first time.

I would wake up drenched in sweat, heart racing, body shaking at least once a week, usually more. Surrounded by darkness, I would stumble out of my room and panic while trying to find my lorazepam – the ONLY thing that gave me relief during that time. Many times after those episodes, I would stay awake til the early hours of the morning watching Netflix…playing games on my phone… anything to distract my brain from the pending doom of having to go to work the next day on 3 hours of sleep.

When I wasn’t experiencing middle of the night panic, I was experiencing falling asleep anxiety. My mind would race a million miles a minute. Thoughts would float in and stick to the back of my eyelids. Each time I closed my eyes, all I could see was a thousand different worries. I would look at my partner, sleeping soundly, beside me and this only made me feel alone ( and slightly jealous that I wasn’t sleeping!)

This isn’t to say that I NEVER experience anxiety at night anymore. But it doesn’t consume me every night and leave me restless and in zombie-like states each day anymore.

Here are the strategies and lifestyle changes I’ve made to aid in healthy sleep and reduced nighttime anxiety & panic:

  • 10-10-10 Breathing: Simply inhale slowly for 10 seconds, hold for 10 seconds and exhale slowly for 10 seconds. I usually do 2 rounds whenever I need to feel grounded. Puts me right into a state of relaxation.
  • Weight:¬†Weighted¬†blankets¬†are¬†a¬†huge¬†trend¬†right¬†now…for¬†good¬†reason-¬†they¬†work! If a weighted blanket isn’t in your budget, pile a bunch of blankets on top of each other. Better yet- invite a pet to lay on you (if they’re willing!)
  • Go to bed before everyone:¬†This¬†one’s¬†kind¬†of¬†weird-¬†but¬†trust¬†me…¬†I used¬†to¬†stay¬†up¬†later¬†than¬†my¬†S/O’s¬†in¬†the¬†past¬†and¬†would¬†end¬†up¬†awake¬†well¬†into¬†the¬†early¬†hours¬†of¬†the¬†morning¬†with¬†racing¬†thoughts. The idea of staying up after everyone else is asleep and binging Netflix sounds nice in theory. But, I find if I go to sleep while there’s still people awake I am comforted knowing that there’s still noise and bustle outside of my bedroom.
  • Magnesium:¬†I¬†find¬†taking¬†Magnesium¬†pills¬†right¬†before¬†bed¬†extremely¬†helpful. They¬†help¬†me¬†stay¬†asleep. Consult¬†your¬†doctor¬†before¬†taking¬†them.¬†
  • Stick to a sleep schedule: This¬†is¬†a¬†big¬†one¬†for¬†me.¬†This¬†is¬†the¬†primary¬†change¬†in¬†lifestyle¬†that¬†has¬†helped¬†me¬†stop¬†having¬†night-time¬†panic¬†attacks.¬†I¬†go¬†to¬†sleep¬†every night¬†around¬†9:30¬†(before¬†my¬†wife),¬†and¬†wake¬†up¬†every day¬†between¬†5:30-6:00¬†a.m.¬†My body now knows when to sleep and how to sleep through the night.
  • Avoid Naps: ¬†Anyone¬†who¬†knows¬†me,¬†knows¬†I love¬†naps…like¬†if¬†I’m¬†on¬†vacation¬†or¬†have¬†a¬†day¬†off¬†that’s¬†what¬†I want¬†to¬†do.¬†They¬†feel¬†so¬†luxurious¬†to¬†me.¬†BUT,¬†they¬†are¬†deadly¬†to¬†my sleep¬†health.¬†So I’ve cut them out.
  • Stay Busy During The Day: ¬†A¬†busy¬†day¬†helps¬†me¬†sleep¬†at¬†night.¬†Even¬†if¬†I have¬†the¬†day¬†off,¬†I try¬†to¬†clean,¬†go¬†out¬†or¬†do¬†things¬†that¬†help¬†exhaust¬†me¬†so¬†I don’t¬†end¬†up¬†just¬†laying¬†in¬†bed¬†unable¬†to¬†sleep.¬†That’s¬†when¬†the¬†thoughts¬†creep¬†in.

On nights I still wake up in panic mode

Though I rarely experience nocturnal panic anymore, in the event that I do, I try to use these strategies to get through them and not let it turn into a cycle.

  • GET UP. Don’t lay in bed panicking- go to another room and do something that comforts you. For me, it’s watching re-runs of old TV shows and playing dumb games on my phone until the panic passes.
  • DRINK ICE WATER or Put an ice pack on the back of your neck. Trust me, it helps shock your body to a different state. In winter I’ll even step outside.
  • TAKE SOMETHING IF YOU NEED IT. If you have a prescription for Ativan or any sort or similar drug and feel comfortable taking one, then do so. There are also natural alternatives such as GABA-T SAP¬†that¬†I take and find extremely helpful. Again,¬†consult¬†your¬†doctor¬†before¬†taking¬†anything¬†new.
  • CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS: Try not to catastrophize your panic. Breathe through it and try to remind yourself it’s temporary and this is simply your body/mind processing something. Allow yourself time to get through it and try not to be angry at your body for the panic.

I hope these techniques can help you get a good sleep and kick the panic.

Love,

TJ

Self-Care Doesn’t Mean Putting Yourself Into Debt

My First Experience With Self-Care

I first heard the term “self-care” when I was in college studying Child and Youth Care. Our profs would tell us constantly how important self-care is in our profession and how it will ultimately prevent burnout. We would have conversations of what self-care meant, and how to fit it into our busy lives of being students and juggling placement and working.

So What is it, Really?

Self-Care, in it’s most basic form, is “The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”

Nowhere does that definition state self-care being the obligation to buy an 8$ bath bomb or $100 yoga mat each time we feel depleted. Or “treating ourselves” (don’t get me started on how much I despise the term “Treat Yo Self.”) to a 7$ Macchiato (jam-packed with sugar that will likely NOT help whatever mental/physical exhaustion you’re feeling) from Starbucks as a reward for going to class despite the lack of sleep and calling it self-care.

It’s Become Pure Consumerism

Self-care has been hi-jacked by retail companies, preying on people who just want to FEEL better. They target their products towards mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted individuals and charge insane prices because they know, we’ll buy the products just to try and feel better.

Our generation (Millenials) is obsessed with the $10billion self-care industry. Search the web for self-care and you’ll find hundreds of articles surrounding self-care, many of which encourage you to buy something that is likely overpriced and out of your budget (I mean common, we’re all in our 20’s here…none of us can afford $100 pillows and the daily $7 Starbucks Drink)

Here is my current favorite cringe-worthy example of “Self-Care” product marketing.

Chapters/Indigo:

Chapters/Indigo has a new “New You” Section on their website jacked with overpriced products such as bath salts loaded with chemicals and packaged beautifully, Luxury loungewear and white-noise machines. All things I’m sure we’d love to purchase, but realistically, these purchases won’t solve our inability to relax or sleep… They just convince us they will.
Like really how is buying a $48.00 towel really going to help? Go back to what you know- selling books.

Self-Care keeps us in a perpetual state of consumerism. Buy the next self-help book. Buy that organic smoothie (but eat McDonald’s an hour later). Buy that bath bomb. Buy that soft overpriced sweater and claim it’s self-care. None of this is self-care. This is consumerism and we justify our over-spending by convincing ourselves it will benefit our health…But does it really?

So… What is Self-Care if it isn’t Spending Money?

Now that I’ve come clean about my dislike for the commercialism of self-care, I’ll tell you what I think self-care truly is and should be.

  • Accessible to everyone: Fresh Air, Staying Hydrated, Spending time with people who lift you up, allowing yourself to sleep in once in a while, balancing your work-home life. 
  • Cheap/Free: Self-care shouldn’t put you in debt or prevent you from saving money.  Notice nothing above costs money.
  • Good for the body, mind, and soul: Home yoga videos (My fave is yogawithAdriene), spending time with animals (visit a shelter if you don’t have one), Learning a new skill (new recipes are an easy go-to).

Self-Care Isn’t Just the Fun Stuff 

Though I would much rather buy another self-help book and read it in bed while sipping my overpriced smoothie. I know self-care is so much more than that. Self-care is the tough stuff. The boring and mundane.

Self-care is going to therapy and then actually DOING THE HOMEWORK so you don’t have to continue spending $100-250 a pop to listen to your therapist tell you the same shit.

And it’s paying your bills on time, putting money into savings so you can actually enjoy your life down the road, cleaning your space, sleeping when you need sleep, cooking healthy meals, reading self-help books (or better yet just reading about self-improvement online) and then DOING THE WORK instead of perpetually buying the books searching for deeper meaning, spending time with people who make you feel good.

Self-care is so much more than a retail experience.

Other Articles About Self-Care 

http://thefederalist.com/2017/06/13/is-self-care-healthy-or-the-ultimate-in-millennial-narcissism-yes/


https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/02/self-care-apps-are-booming/

https://thethirty.byrdie.com/self-care-status-symbol

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/self-care-is-hard#6

Cheap/Free Self-Care Articles

https://acleanbake.com/self-care-ideas/


https://www.continuumcollective.org/blog/2017/3/7/5-self-care-strategies-that-arent-fucking-mani-pedis


https://www.bustle.com/p/21-quick-life-changing-self-care-hacks-that-dont-cost-you-anything-7842786


I hope you can create a cost-free/cheap self-care routine ’cause you know going into debt and running from your problems isn’t self-care.

Love,
TJ

What do you mean I might not be mentally ill?

If you were to ask me 10 years ago where I would be at 25, “I don’t know if I’ll make it to 25.”

My mental illness (diagnosed as depression, anxiety & OCD) has been a shadow following me since I was 12. I remember the first time I thought there might be something wrong was when I started coming home from school at 4, sleeping until 7, eating and then sleeping till morning. No amount of sleep could cure the exhaustion.

It has stuck with me ever since. It has grown and morphed and squeezed into every single aspect of my life despite my best efforts to shield myself from it. It has progressed into a monster that I undoubtedly am no match for.

Now, at 25 I am married to a woman I adore, in a house I love with a dog I can’t imagine my life without. But, my “mental illness” has been worse than ever before. It has manifested into what my family doctor referred to as “probably bi-polar”, and has consumed me entirely as I tried to find ways to cope with it.

I’ve tried diet changes, medications (including an anti-psychotic for my “probably bi-polar“, exercise, socializing more, staying busier, taking time to rest, going on sick-leaves from work, life-coaching, therapist after therapist after therapist… To say the least, it has been exhausting and completely debilitating.

I have burnt bridges professionally, lost friends, and questioned my purpose during what I thought was “mania.” I have felt so enlightened and determined that I wrote half of a book in one sitting. A rollercoaster could not compete with the twisty ride my brain was on.

But, the one helping professional who has empowered me and helped me fight for answers is my naturopath. I’ve been seeing her for a year, and in that time, she has dug down to the roots of my being. She has asked questions no doctor ever thought to ask and wanted a full picture of my life (right down to when I go to the bathroom.)

So, when she suggested that I might not actually have a mental illness, but that it is a symptom of a larger problem, I believed she could be right. 

She then proceeded to tell me that she wanted me to take a test that tests the hormone, serotonin, dopamine, and neurotransmitters in the body called the Dutch Test
I trusted her. I trusted her wholeheartedly because I so badly needed an answer for why my depression and anxiety/OCD had morphed into this bi-polar like illness that was eating me alive.

Related image

So- I took the test. I peed on little flaps of papers at certain times a day at a certain day in my cycle and then mailed it off in hopes that I would find relief. Nearly a month later, my results came back. I met with my naturopath who had taken the time to analyze the tests and what she told me frightened and enlightened me. “Your mental illness is a symptom of a hormone imbalance.” She also informed me that my serotonin levels, dopamine levels, and neurotransmitters were in the normal-high range. But that all of my basic hormones, including my cortisol, were not.

THANK GOD”¬†were the first two words that popped into my head. Next were “who am I without it?”¬†

I never realized how heavily I identified as someone who is depressed, who is anxious, who has OCD. I never imagined it could be anything else. So now, I’m here. Sitting with the feelings that accompany my new diagnosis of having a “hormone imbalance” while not letting it have too much power over me (though I cannot wait to get my hormones back to a healthy level.)

For the next while, my posts will likely be about my experiences surrounding recovery & hormone balance, as well as my emotions surrounding this entire experience.

Love

 

 

 

 

 

Why Changing What I Eat is The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done For My Mental Health

*Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional and in no way am encouraging others to try any of the products/supplements I mention until they consult with their doctor.

Recently I’ve drastically changed what I’m consuming. Not to say I was eating complete garbage before…but I wasn’t eating what my body needed. I’d fill my body full of carbs when I was stressed or emotional, go hours without eating and then binge out of starvation. I ate tiny meals with little to no fat and not nearly enough protein. I didn’t eat nearly enough vegetables and loaded up on sugary fruits. I’d snack late at night on chips and chocolate and other packaged foods. Wine became a nightly ritual (more than 1 glass). And, water was simply something I showered in.

Not to mention the fact that despite taking Zoloft daily to help me manage my anxiety/depression, I didn’t take any other supplements or medications. I was wary of them, to be honest. I thought the die-hard health nuts who lived on water, supplements, and veggies were insane. I still kind of do. But, I can truly say I have never felt better than I do now.

I visited a naturopath recently who has completely inspired me to change my life from the inside out. Not only did she analyze my eating patterns, mood instability, sleep, emotions, and skin…She got an in-depth, clear view of who I am and what food meant (means) to me.

After spilling my life story to her, including my deep-dark secrets involving binge-eating foods that didn’t serve me, she provided me with a solid plan to help heal the parts of my body that were suffering.

Firstly, she informed me that my adrenal glands were exhausted and overworked which caused symptoms such as carb & sweet cravings, dizziness, poor sleep and fuzzy thinking, to mention a few.¬†She helped me understand how sugar and caffeine (even in tiny amounts) were directly impacting my stress levels and causing my adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol (think fight or flight…all of the time). She prescribed me a supplement used to help combat daily stress using “stress adapting botanicals.”

Next, we focussed on my skin, which was dull and lacking moisture even in the Summer months. She informed me I wasn’t consuming nearly enough (healthy) fats and oils. Simple as that. Along with my habit of only drinking like 1 glass of water daily. She encouraged me to add healthy fats (such as coconut oil and avocado’s) to my meals daily and drink water almost constantly. I have already begun to see improvements in my skin such as less flaky dry skin. She also prescribed a high-grade Omega oil that I now take daily.

We also dove into my panic attacks that have worsened over the last few years (since starting College.) We discovered that my eating habits drastically changed after I started college because convenience¬†trumped healthy and, let’s be honest, I was broke. My caffeine consumption also increased drastically when I started college. The habits I formed in college kind of just stuck with me even after I graduated and began my career.

She also outlined the dangers of eating sugar in excess when you suffer from anxiety/panic and strongly encouraged me to eat as little sugar (especially processed) as possible. She also prescribed an amazing supplement packed with L-Theanine to help combat panic when it comes on. I was super unconvinced when she prescribed it. As someone who has tried Attivan in different doses without any relief, I strongly doubted a supplement would be able to give me any relief. But, during a panic attack, I took one of the prescribed supplements and almost instantly stopped shaking and could feel my nervous system calming. I felt slightly sleepy and my thoughts stopped racing.

When we began talking about my sleep and how it has been disturbed for nearly my entire life and prescription sleep aids never provided much relief, she immediately mentioned my cortisol levels again. She prescribed magnesium which decreases the stress hormone and also helps tense muscles relax. It has provided me more relief than any prescription sleep aid ever has!

Additional supplements she prescribed me include Vitamin D drops and Vitamin B complexes.

As for my “diet” which I’ve started calling my fuel…It’s simple. I eat protein, a lot of it. I also load up on vegetables with each meal instead of carbs. I eat carbs that contain protein such as Quinoa. I consume dairy in moderation and try to buy organic meat to avoid excess hormones. I also add healthy fats to each meal. I’ve also started to incorporate a lot of nuts/nut butter and seeds into my diet.

A daily meal plan looks like:

Morning Smoothie (Supplements= Adrenal Vive, Vitamin B complex)
1 large handful spinach
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil
A small handful of berries
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tbsp Chia seeds
Ice
1 scoop of protein powder. This one of my ultimate favorite!
*Bonus: 1 tbsp of acai berry powder

Snack
Grapes with walnuts

Lunch
Spinach and Kale salad topped with protein such as salmon or chicken with pumpkin seeds, avocado and any other veggies you like.

Snack
Coconut yogurt topped with a few berries, hemp seeds and a drizzle of agave.

Dinner (Supplement: Vitamin D drops, Omega oil)
Cabbage, onion, garlic and rapini skillet with organic sausage.

Bedtime Snack (Supplements: Magnesium)
Anything I desire as long as it doesn’t have a lot of sugar.

So, in short, I now eat a bunch of vegetables, little sugar, little caffeine, lots of healthy fat and protein and lots of water!

I hope this helps anyone who’s considering visiting a naturopath. I can’t recommend it more!

Additional Readings:

How to Tell If Your Adrenals Are Fatigued (Plus 7 Ways To Support Them)-This website is gold!

What Are The Causes Of Adrenal Fatigue?

11 Steps To Rebuild Your Relationship With Food

Happy Healing Everyone. Hug your body it may not be perfect, but it’s the only one you’ve got.¬† xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 3 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

I’ve experienced and struggled with anxiety since I was a child. Through lots of research and trial and error, I’ve found strategies and remedies for managing it.

*Note: These remedies aren’t in replacement of medications, they simply may aid in highly anxious times. I use these remedies on top of my medication as “spot treatment.”

  1. Magnesium: I take it twice per day typically. Once when I’m experiencing heightened¬†anxiety and once before I go to sleep. It aids in insomnia relief, anxiety and relieves muscle aches and spasms. I take¬†Magnesium by Pure Lab. They are a bit pricey but so worth the money!
  2. The¬†Relax-O-Ring¬†from¬†Saje Wellness.¬†I use it when I’m feeling anxious or having trouble focussing. The ring stimulates pressure points and feels amazing!
  3. Stress Relief Tension Reducing Remedy From Saje is my daily go-to. I use it on my way to work, during work, when I get home, during yoga- anytime I experience stress. The smell is grounding and now I associate it with calmness. I roll it on my wrists and behind my neck so I can smell it subtly throughout the day.

I hope you all can find these helpful. If I could recommend¬†1, I’d recommend the Relax-O-Ring. Under $5.00 and so effective!

Have a calm week, everyone.